Photo: UNDP Uzbekistan

On 11 December 2020, an annual Steering Committee Meeting was held for the ‘Youth for Social Harmony in the Fergana Valley’ joint project of the Youth Affairs Agency of Uzbekistan and the United Nations. This project is funded by the UN Peacebuilding Fund, and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), in cooperation with the Youth Affairs Agency of the Republic of Uzbekistan and other national partners.

This project seeks to increase the resilience of young people in the Fergana Valley to external influences, equipping them with the skills and competencies needed to allow them to participate in the political life of their country.

This digital meeting was co-chaired by Director of the Youth Affairs Agency Mr. Alisher Sadullayev, UNDP Resident Representative in Uzbekistan Ms. Matilda Dimovska, and Ms. Jude Alharti of the UN Peacebuilding Fund. In her opening speech Ms. Dimovska noted the project’s importance and timeliness, given that youth policy is a current priority direction for state activity of the Republic of Uzbekistan.

In turn, UNODC Regional Representative to Central Asia Ms. Ashita Mittal stressed that a unique feature of this project is that it allows different agencies to jointly support a particular region and sphere of development, both national priorities for ensuring youth involvement in building social harmony.

During the meeting issues related to the joint project’s implementation were discussed, particularly its achievements in 2020 and the anticipated project plans for 2021.

The project began its activities this year through launching the Technovation Girls Fergana Valley programme, which saw the participation of 100 young women and girls from the Fergana, Andijan, and Namangan regions. For its participants this programme created a safe space for self-expression, learning, and solidarity. Participants were taught programming skills through using the App Inventor platform, and had a chance to attend workshops conducted by local and international Oracle Digital (EMAE) specialists. Participants received the skills needed to create mobile applications for solving problems of the communities they live in.

The ‘JustStart’ start-up acceleration program has been launched to support young entrepreneurs and their business enterprises. 268 participants, including 92 women and 176 men, have been registered in the programme. At the programme’s final stage the ten best innovative projects will be selected, receiving small grants to assist with their further implementation.

On 5 December 2020, the II Republican Forum of Volunteers was held in partnership with the Youth Affairs Agency. This event was dedicated to the International Day of Volunteers, and brought together more than 200 participants including 140 women and 60 men. The founding of the Association of Volunteers of Uzbekistan was a memorable part of this event.

Additionally, in 2020 the project established the Girls' Voice Network, giving 20 young women a platform to exchange their views on women's empowerment and gender equality in the Fergana Valley.

Using the existing digital U-report platform for youth engagement the project surveyed 1,015 young people from the Fergana Valley, 39% women. On the basis of this survey, UNODC organized three Hackathon events and the ‘4UnlimitedEducation’ programme in the Margilan, Fergana and Andijan cities. These were attended by 64 young men and women, who over 24-hour periods worked to create mobile applications to promote rule of law through education, innovation and entrepreneurship.

It is noteworthy that within the project, a number of meetings were conducted with local authorities in the Fergana Valley, particularly heads of regional, city and district departments of internal affairs, representatives of the Ministry of Mahalla and Family Affairs, and other stakeholders, to discuss priorities for crime prevention in the Fergana Valley. As a result of these meetings, agreements were reached with key partners to support the implementation of the ‘Safe Mahalla’ concept, and to encourage youth to participate in related initiatives.

The project helped encourage more than 400 young people to participate in global UN days. The First Youth Forum was held to mark the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. Following this an information campaign was conducted in parallel with the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, based on an action plan developed by the Youth Affairs Agency.

The ‘Hayotga qo’shil’ (Join Life) challenge was organized together with the Ministry of Physical Culture and Sports, involving around 1,700 young people and their families in the Fergana Valley. Through this challenge participants had a chance to demonstrate how sport helps them maintain a positive attitude towards life, especially given the current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic.

A pilot project designed to prevent crime through sports has been implemented in ten schools of the Fergana Valley. Twenty teachers in the region have been trained through a methodology developed by UNODC. This initiative has helped coaches, teachers and other stakeholders working with youth aged 13 to 18 to cope with issues of everyday life, especially in post-quarantine conditions, while also reducing rates of delinquency among schoolchildren.

As part of this project three new legal clinics have been created in the Fergana, Andijan and Namangan cities, providing legal advice and help to young people, and if necessary, representing their interests in civil, administrative and criminal courts.

Participants of the Steering Committee Meeting held on 11 December emphasized the project’s importance and relevance, with due consideration of its components and workplan. They shared their recommendations for ensuring the project’s achievement of sustainable results, and approved the workplan for its entire implementation period.

The digital meeting was attended by representatives of the Youth Affairs Agency of Uzbekistan, the UN Peacebuilding Fund, UNODC in Central Asia, and UNDP and UNESCO in Uzbekistan, along with representatives of other key partners and stakeholders.

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